Smiling Instead of Smoking

  • Download here if you have an Android.
  • Download here if you have an iPhone.

Note: If you would like to participate in our research study testing the SiS app, do not download the app yet! You will be automatically ineligible if you download the app before enrolling in the study.


SiS (“Smiling Instead of Smoking”) is an app that engages you in daily positive psychology exercises over the course of 7 weeks, and assigns ‘behavioral challenges’ every 2-4 days to coach you through the steps towards smoking cessation.  This is an app designed by scientists based on existing evidence and clinical guidelines regarding smoking cessation.  The effectiveness of this app will be tested, as funded by a grant from the American Cancer Society.  The key innovation of this app is its use of positive psychology, which is a promising new approach to smoking cessation.  The happiness exercises used in this app have been fully vetted, and the app provides scientific facts and insights along the way (i.e., “Owl Wisdoms”).  Our goal is to inform and empower, while engaging you in daily practices that enhance and/or maintain your happiness, while you undertake the challenge of quitting smoking.

Here is what you’ll do:

happiness happiness log behavioral challenges badges cig log strategies personal reasons reminded magma bear owl wisdoms

Why use a positive psychology approach?

Mood plays a pivotal role in smoking, and mood-focused smoking cessation treatments have been developed, and found to be effective in randomized controlled trials.2-8  Typically, however, mood-focused interventions have focused on smokers with depression or depressive symptoms, and have largely targeted negative affect.  Positive affect (i.e., happiness) is psychometrically distinct from negative affect,9 with different neural underpinnings,10 and differing psychosocial correlates.9  It also plays an important role in smoking cessation.  Reductions in positive affect have been linked to increased temptation to smoke,11 and data from laboratory cue presentations indicate that exposure to positive affect cues reduces craving in both daily and non-daily smokers.12  During smoking cessation, positive affect has been shown to decrease in the weeks leading up to the quit day,13 which is problematic, as decreases in positive affect on the quit day are associated with a greater risk for smoking relapse.14,15  Thus, an intervention that enhances happiness should have a positive effect on smoking cessation – and indeed, a recent study suggests that it can do so successfully. 16  

Can simple, brief exercises actually enhance happiness?

Enhancing positive affect with brief, self-administered exercises is entirely feasible.  While positive affect interventions to improve smoking cessation outcomes are largely absent from the smoking cessation literature, an entire sub-discipline of psychology, coined positive psychology,17 is dedicated to understanding and enhancing the frequency and intensity of positive affect states.  This research has led to the creation of positive psychology exercises that are designed to enhance positive states.  A recent meta-analysis, spanning 51 positive psychology interventions and a total sample size of 4,266 participants, found that these positive psychology exercises have consistently led to improvements in overall well-being and reductions in depression.18 

Of note is the fact that these effects were achieved with very brief, self-administered positive activities rather than clinician-administered treatments.18  That means that such exercises could conceivably be delivered via smartphone app.  Thus, we have developed a smartphone app that does just that. 

Additionally, see here for our recently-published paper, which provides support for the idea that brief, self-administered happiness exercises can increase momentary happiness in individuals in recovery.19

How do I get involved in your study?

If you smoke cigarettes on some days (but not daily), you may be eligible to participate in this research study conducted by faculty at the MGH-Harvard Center for Addiction Medicine. Give us a call at 617-724-3129 or email us at We will need to complete a quick 10-minute phone screen to ensure that you are eligible to participate, and if you are, we can enroll you in our study!

Your participation in this study consists of making an attempt to quit smoking while using our smoking cessation app. Our goal is to capture your experience while you do so through three types of interactions: (1)  surveys, (2) use of our smoking cessation app, and (3) optional participation in an online video/Skype session.

To compensate you for the time and effort it will take to complete all assessments, we will compensate you up to $195.

For more information, see here.

By the way, why is the app called SiS?

Because we are academics and geeks, so clever naming eludes us.  SiS stands for “Smiling Instead of Smoking”, where we are blissfully ignoring the “o” that should probably be included in the acronym.  To be totally honest, my sister and I originally came up with the idea for this app, and back then named it rather cutely “SiS” for “sisters”.  This pet name has kind of stuck with the project.


1. Hoeppner, BB, Hoeppner SS, Carlon HA, Perez GK, Helmuth E, & Kahler CW. Feasibility and acceptability of a smartphone app leveraging positive psychology to support smoking cessation in nondaily smokers (Preprint). 2019;10.2196/preprints.13436. 

2. Hall SM, Munoz RF, Reus VI, et al. Mood management and nicotine gum in smoking treatment: a therapeutic contact and placebo-controlled study. J Consult Clin Psychol. 1996;64(5):1003-1009.

3. Hall SM, Lightwood JM, Humfleet GL, Bostrom A, Reus VI, Munoz R. Cost-effectiveness of bupropion, nortriptyline, and psychological intervention in smoking cessation. J Behav Health Serv Res. 2005;32(4):381-392.

4. Hall SM, Humfleet GL, Reus VI, Munoz RF, Cullen J. Extended nortriptyline and psychological treatment for cigarette smoking. Am J Psychiatry. 2004;161(11):2100-2107.

5. Hall SM, Humfleet GL, Reus VI, Munoz RF, Hartz DT, Maude-Griffin R. Psychological intervention and antidepressant treatment in smoking cessation. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2002;59(10):930-936.

6. Hall SM, Reus VI, Munoz RF, et al. Nortriptyline and cognitive-behavioral therapy in the treatment of cigarette smoking. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1998;55(8):683-690.

7. van der Meer RM, Willemsen MC, Smit F, Cuijpers P, Schippers GM. Effectiveness of a mood management component as an adjunct to a telephone counselling smoking cessation intervention for smokers with a past major depression: a pragmatic randomized controlled trial. Addiction. 2010;105(11):1991-1999.

8. MacPherson L, Tull MT, Matusiewicz AK, et al. Randomized controlled trial of behavioral activation smoking cessation treatment for smokers with elevated depressive symptoms. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2010;78(1):55-61.

9. Watson D, Clark LA. Measurement and mismeasurement of mood: recurrent and emergent issues. J Pers Assess. 1997;68(2):267-296.

10. Davidson RJ, Ekman P, Saron CD, Senulis JA, Friesen WV. Approach-withdrawal and cerebral asymmetry: emotional expression and brain physiology. I. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1990;58(2):330-341.

11.  Rabois D, Haaga DA. The influence of cognitive coping and mood on smokers' self-efficacy and temptation. Addict Behav. 2003;28(3):561-573.

12. Shiffman S, Dunbar MS, Kirchner TR, et al. Cue reactivity in non-daily smokers: effects on craving and on smoking behavior. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013;226(2):321-333.

13. Strong DR, Kahler CW, Leventhal AM, et al. Impact of bupropion and cognitive-behavioral treatment for depression on positive affect, negative affect, and urges to smoke during cessation treatment. Nicotine Tob Res. 2009;11(10):1142-1153.

14. Strong DR, Leventhal AM, Evatt DP, et al. Positive reactions to tobacco predict relapse after cessation. J Abnorm Psychol. 2011;120(4):999-1005.

15. Cook JW, Spring B, McChargue D, Hedeker D. Hedonic capacity, cigarette craving, and diminished positive mood. Nicotine Tob Res. 2004;6(1):39-47.

16. Kahler CW, Spillane NS, Day AM, et al. Positive Psychotherapy for Smoking Cessation: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. Nicotine Tob Res. 2015;17(11):1385-1392.

17. Seligman ME, Csikszentmihalyi M. Positive psychology. An introduction. Am Psychol. 2000;55(1):5-14.

18. Sin NL, Lyubomirsky S. Enhancing well-being and alleviating depressive symptoms with positive psychology interventions: a practice-friendly meta-analysis. J Clin Psychol. 2009;65(5):467-487.

19. Hoeppner BB, Schick MR, Carlon HA, & Hoeppner SS. Do self-administered positive psychology exercises work in persons in recovery from problematic substance use? An online randomized survey. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 2019;99:16-23.